6 Tips for Maintaining a Wood Burning Fireplace

6 Tips for Maintaining a Wood Burning Fireplace

Although the dead of winter is now far behind us, there may still be some nights where it’s cool enough to use a fireplace and fall is always around the corner.  Nevertheless, it’s always a good idea to keep your fireplace as clean as possible from debris left behind from wood burning.  Creosote is an extremely dangerous substance that is left behind as wood burns, it sticks to the chimney walls and can catch on fire causing many people to lose their homes and their lives every year.  With that in mind, here are 7 tips for maintaining a wood burning fireplace:

  1. Get Your Chimney Swept Annually – this is the single most important piece of maintenance that can be recommended to a homeowner.  Creosote can catch on fire fairly easily and it spreads just as quickly, in fact, it is recommended that you get your chimney cleaned when as little as ⅛ inch accumulates on your walls.  This is because your firebox is intended to have direct contact with flames, but everything above your damper shouldn’t.  If it does, it can cause severe damage.
  2. Smoke Detectors – they should be installed on every floor of your home and so should carbon monoxide detectors which are equally as important when it comes to chimneys. When the airflow isn’t working properly in your chimney it can cause a backup of airflow.  Once symptom of poor airflow is a flame that doesn’t burn as strong and as bright as it used to.  The problem with that is smoke and carbon monoxide aren’t allowed to escape up the chimney and instead can linger in your home.  Breathing in carbon monoxide is extremely dangerous so having a carbon monoxide detector can be life saving.
  3. Remove Combustables – anything such as rugs, carpets, magazines, wooden tables or chairs and even plants and pets shouldn’t be left around an open fire.  Sparks can always fly and potentially catch something that easily ignites into flames.  To prevent this, always keep your metal guards closed to catch any spreading sparks.
  4. Seasoned Wood – burn only seasoned wood that has been given the official certified mark, don’t risk burning anything other than seasoned wood.  Wood that is seasoned means that it has been given six to twelve months under a cover to dry out and now contains less than 20% moisture.  Don’t go for the green wood as it hasn’t been given enough time to season and doesn’t burn as well.  Because of the higher moisture content it will leave behind more soot and creosote on along your walls.
  5. Hard Woods – whenever possible and whenever given the option you should choose to burn harder woods than softer woods.  Hard woods are maple, oak and ash wood which are much more dense and generally contain a lower moisture content to them.  You can also distinguish them by their weight as they are denser and heavier than softer woods such as cedar, poplar and pine which are less dense and allow more absorption of moisture.
  6. Test – it’s always a good idea to test out how well your chimney works before filing it up with logs and finding out the hard way when your chimney backs up.  To do this, all you have to do is grab a couple pieces of seasoned wood and let it burn from the very top going down.  The smoke should travel directly up and out of the chimney, but if it doesn’t and starts to back up into the house then at least you’ve recognized the issue before its too late.  When that happens your best bet is to contact a local chimney sweep company to have them do a professional cleaning.  A cleaning should also come with a general inspection of your system to make sure it’s working properly.  We use a chimney sweep company in Oak Lawn IL to make sure our fireplace is working at optimal levels and that our family is safe when it’s on.

A fireplace is too important to not perform regularly scheduled maintenance on it, fires can quickly and easily spread in just a matter of minutes, all stemming from a tiny spark.  Make sure to implement these simple tips and to habitually get your chimney swept so you can use it with full peace of mind.  There is nothing better than winter days with hot chocolate, a book and a roaring fireplace!

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